Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection of the vagina, occurring as a result of the overgrowth of harmful bacteria typically found in low levels in the vagina. When the bacteria overgrow, it affects the natural balance, causing inflammation.
Although women in their reproductive years are more susceptible to bacterial vaginosis, the condition can also affect women of any age.
Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
Medical researchers have not entirely understood what causes BV. According to research, a combination of multiple bacteria must be present for bacterial vaginosis to occur. A most notable feature when an individual suffers from bacterial vaginosis is a reduction in the number of lactobacilli that produce hydrogen peroxide in the vagina.
Simultaneously, the concentration of other bacteria increases in the vagina. That is the main reason why diagnosing and treating bacterial vaginosis has become more and more challenging for many health professionals.
Here are a few factors that can increase your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.
- Frequent vaginal douching
- Using an intrauterine device (for birth control)
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with new or multiple partners
- Recent antibiotic use
- Cigarette smoking
There are no common health problems associated with bacterial vaginosis, although there can be complications if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis can cause disturbing symptoms even though it is not dangerous. Treating bacterial vaginosis starts with correctly diagnosing it. It is essential to exclude other serious vaginal infections such as STDs (gonorrhea and chlamydia) in diagnosing bacterial vaginosis.
If you have bacterial vaginosis, the signs and symptoms can occur anytime in the menstrual cycle. That includes before, during, and after your period.
Some women may not show any signs at all when suffering from bacterial vaginosis. However, symptoms do occur for most people with the infection. Let’s have a look at some of the most common signs of bacterial vaginosis.
- An abnormal amount of discharge from the vagina
- Thin, green, or grayish-white vaginal discharge
- Vaginal odour – often, unpleasant fishy smell or foul-smelling
- Vaginal itching
- A burning sensation when urinating
You may be suffering from bacterial vaginosis, but you may not see any signs as BV may not show any symptoms. From one woman to the other, the amount of vaginal discharge considered normal can vary significantly. Therefore, you should get evaluated if you are experiencing a degree of discharge abnormal to you.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis
To determine the best treatment option for bacterial vaginosis, a doctor needs to diagnose the condition correctly.
First, a doctor would ask your questions about your medical history to determine if you have had any previous vaginal infection or sexually transmitted infections.
The next thing is to perform a professional pelvic exam to check if your pelvic organs have signs that may indicate disease.
Once the pelvic exam is complete, the doctor would take a sample of your vaginal secretions. He or she will examine these samples to determine if you have bacterial vaginosis.
Lastly, a doctor would test the acidity of your vagina using a pH test strip.
Once the diagnosis is complete, the doctor then proceeds to treat the condition. There are three main options when it comes to treating bacterial vaginosis. Below are the typical medications that a doctor would prescribe:
- Metronidazole – This medicine is available in both the oral pill and a topical gel, which you can insert into your vagina. It is important to avoid drinking alcohol during treatment and a few days after completing the medication to reduce the risk of any stomach-related issues.
- Clindamycin – If you want a vaginal insertion treatment option, then clindamycin is one of the best options for you. While on this medication, be careful when engaging in sexual intercourse as clindamycin weakens latex condoms.
- Tinidazole – This is another great oral option. Avoid alcohol when using Tinidazole to treat bacterial vaginosis as it has the same potential for stomach-related issues as metronidazole.
It is essential to diagnose and treat bacterial vaginosis earlier as it can cause disturbing symptoms. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to prevent bacterial vaginosis. To avoid bacterial vaginosis, ensure you minimize vaginal irritation, avoid douching and any STD.